Game: Yomawari: Lost in the Dark
Genre: Adventure, Puzzle.
System: Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Microsoft Windows.
Developer | Publisher: Nippon Ichi Software | NIS America
Age Rating: US Teen | EU 12+
Price: US $39.99 | UK £35.99 | EU € 39.99
Release Date: US: October 25th, 2022 | EU: October 28th, 2022
Review code used, with many thanks to Reef Entertainment.
We are reaching the end of October with Halloween on the corner and the horror genre thriving on countless titles coming to all consoles. Having satisfied its audience with its previous games, Yomawari added the third addition to its series.
It not only maintained its essence from its predecessors but also improved each aspect already significant. Yomawari: Lost in the Dark brings a spooky and grim atmosphere with jump scares and horrifying taboos that will keep the players constantly on edge.
A Story about a Curse, a Girl, and the Past
Yomawari: Lost in the Dark is set in a small town where various tragedies have occurred. The main character, Yuzu, is a little girl who suffers from hateful and intense bullying by her classmates. After a bleak introduction with her terrible time at school, Yuzu appears lost in a forest, afraid and alone, wondering about her whereabouts.
Then she meets with a friendly woman who seems to recognize her, regardless of Yuzu not remembering anything. She guides Yuzu out of the forest and tells her that she needs to look for her memories to break the curse. Furthermore, she needs to search for them fast since she has until 6 am to break the curse; otherwise, it will set in forever. Without hesitation, Yuzu searches for her memories, realizing how more pieces are connected than she knows.
Exploration has never been Scarier.
The beauty of Yomawari: Lost in the Dark is that the scary factor hides in every single aspect of the game. One of them can be felt within its exploration. You never know what you will find by the end of the street, on a dark alley, or inside empty buildings. At night, the town is no place to wander, with various spirits roaming the streets.
Most ghosts in the town won’t attack unless Yuzu makes eye contact with them. Yuzu’s heart beats progressively depending on the closeness of danger when she covers her eyes, helping her maintain just enough distance between herself and the ghosts. And the oddly creepy and sometimes funny-looking ghosts are just too captivating to the eye that it is almost impossible to look away.
The Sound of Silence
Except for a few musical tunes that are emotionally beautiful in specific moments, most of the game has no background music (The opening piano is catchy and amazing). However, the environmental sound of each area makes the whole experience quite immersive and keeps the players in constant suspense, making the fear more than just a few cheap scares like most horror games do.
Walking through old buildings where the floor or doors creak and sudden smashes or cries in the distance scared me, just like when a big deadly ghost chased me. Every sound in the game felt appropriate, natural and, at the same time, valuable and necessary for survival. These sounds contributed to the constant fear and tension but also could help Yuzu be aware of dangerous spirits and cover her eyes just in time.
Cute but Dark
The aesthetics of this game are exceptional. With hand-drawn UI and beautiful characters that are just too adorable, Yomawari: Lost in the Dark blends that together with dark and luring ghosts. Each one made creatively weird and creepy, some quite simple yet horrifying. But one thing is for sure, all of them combined with the rest of the environment hit the right spot with perfect balance.
It is in the cute and innocent things that more profoundly and disturbing truths may hide, and Yomawari: Lost in the Dark is exactly that, touching certain taboos and grimmer topics. For instance, Yuzu finds the spirit of a dog who was violently murdered or a mother who is searching for her long-lost boy. The stories in the town are all but happy, more like a series of tragedies without closure. Yuzu has the respect and empathy to deal with each situation accordingly.
Designing such a natural flow in the game’s progression and each area in it takes work, and Yomawari: Lost in the Dark does it splendidly. Progressing the game and learning more about everything in it while having the freedom to explore a big city felt fluent and enjoyable. Finding an item that would give you a clue or solving a puzzle to unlock your way forward was always worth the effort of avoiding and moving through scary-looking ghosts.
I was captivated by the emotions and tragedies in the different memories and areas on the map. Without too many spoilers, to give an example, the gameplay loop goes like this: Yuzu finds a memory; she goes to that place in the memory to find something else and then maybe a way to a new area. There are many sad stories, and each one makes you feel a combination of emotions mixed with fear and adrenaline by the end of it. Every text in the game is worth reading; the amount of content and depth is recognizable.
Yomawari: Lost in the Dark may be similar to its predecessors, but it is an improvement in its mechanics and delivers a fantastic experience in every aspect. It is a fun, scary, emotional, deep, sad, and aesthetically beautiful game, which can trigger some, but it also has much to say. The experience is quite whole and more than entertaining, giving achievers plenty of collectables during and after finishing the main game. For horror players who enjoy games that are not only about battle but puzzles, exploration, and a grand narrative, this game is for you.
Final Verdict: Two Thumbs Up.